Miracles: A Belief That Isn’t Really Belief At All (Part 4 of 5)

Craig Keener is a New Testament scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary. In his book Miracles, Keener attempts to prove two things: 1. accounts of miracles actually do happen, and 2. at least some of these accounts are due to supernatural reasons.

His book seems longer than the Bible (comprising two volumes), and I don’t pretend to have read it all. Instead, I want to point out something that I noticed right from the outset. In his introduction, Keener makes it very clear that a Christian scholar must tread carefully if they are going to try and suggest that Christians can legitimately believe in miracles.

In a footnote, one can see how delicate this issue is. Keener asks that those who do not agree with his argument, to…

at least appreciate the valiant and academically legitimate nature of my attempt. Worldviews do not crumble easily, although I am convinced that thoroughgoing antisupernaturalism fails to explain the totality of our evidence… Happily, the current intellectual climate is in many disciplines much less committed to antisupernaturalism than it was a half-century ago.

Let me remind you that Keener is writing a book for the church, to be used by the church, and referenced by the church and will, most likely, never be read by popular atheists. The point is simple: belief in miracles is a delicate business in the church. Of all places, you think talk about miracles would be embraced in the church? Sadly, it’s not. In fact, I’ve seen Christian get downright angry when people start talking about miracles. I’ve seen them even resort to yelling and name-calling. In the church, mind you… of all places…

What I want to suggest is somewhat radical: a belief in a god that doesn’t work miracles is really the kind of “belief” that most atheists have. Richard Dawkins is a self-proclaimed atheist, who said this about believing “god”:

Great scientists of our time who sound religious usually turn out not to be so when you examine their beliefs more deeply. This is certainly true of Einstein and Hawkins. The present Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, told me that he goes to church as an ‘unbelieving Anglican… out of loyalty to the tribe’. He has no theistic beliefs, but shares the poetic naturalism that the cosmos provokes in other scientists I have mentioned.

            Even atheists believe in a metaphysical god of the cosmos. A “god” that sums up the awe one sees in the world. They “believe” in this kind of “god” because they know that this kind of belief isn’t really belief at all.

The question that I raise to the current theological world, categorized as antisupernatural is this: are you too ‘unbelieving’ who ‘out of loyalty to the tribe’ continue to work in the church? I appreciate Richard Dawkins, and any other scholar who is willing to have an honest look at religion. For Dawkins, to believe in a personal God is to believe in miracles. A personal God cannot be personal if it does not interact.

There is a whole class of education that is promoting a belief that isn’t really belief at all. Renewal cannot take place as long as there are Christian teachers who teach about God without really trusting in God. Renewal cannot take place as long as miracles are not welcomed in Christian discourse.

 

References

Anderson, Allan. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Dawkins, Richard The God Delusion. 1st Mariner Books ed. Boston: Mariner Books, 2008.

Hume, David. “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.” Bartleby. April 24, 2001.

Accessed September 14, 2013. http://www.bartleby.com/br/03703.html.

Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church: an Introduction to Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Reprint ed. Maryknoll, NY: Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Keener, Craig S. Miracles: the Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2011.

Lewis, C.S. Miracles: a Preliminary Study. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2001.

Vickers, Jason E. Minding the Good Ground: a Theology for Church Renewal. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2011.


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